Although the existence of the rat glutathione S-transferase (GST) M4 (rGSTM4) gene has been known for some time, the corresponding protein has not as yet been purified from tissue. A recombinant rGSTM4-4 was thus expressed in Escherichia coli from a chemically synthesized rGSTM4 gene. The catalytic efficiency (kcat/Km) of rGSTM4-4 for the 1-chloro-2,4-dinitrobenzene (CDNB) conjugation reaction was 50–180-fold less than that of the well-characterized homologous rGSTM1-1, and the pH optimum for the same reaction was 8.5 for rGSTM4-4 as opposed to 6.5 for rGSTM1-1. Molecular-modelling studies predict that key substitutions in the helix α4 region of rGSTM4-4 account for this pKa difference. A notable structural feature of rGSTM4-4 is the Cys-115 residue in place of the Tyr-115 of other Mu-class GSTs. The thiol group of Cys-115 is redox-reactive and readily forms a mixed disulphide even with GSH; the S-glutathiolated form of the enzyme is catalytically active. A mutated rGSTM4-4 (C115Y) had 6–10-fold greater catalytic efficiency than the wild-type rGSTM4-4. Trp-45, a conserved residue among Mu-class GSTs, is essential in rGSTM4-4 for both enzyme activity and binding to glutathione affinity matrices. Antibodies directed against either the unique C-terminal undecapeptide or tridecapeptide of rGSTM4 reacted with rat and mouse liver GSTs to reveal an orthologous mouse GSTM4-4 present at low basal levels but which is inducible in mouse liver. This subclass of rodent Mu GSTs with redox-active Cys-115 residues could have specialized physiological functions in response to oxidative stress.

Abbreviations used: GST, glutathione S-transferase; r, rat; h, human; m, mouse; CDNB, 1-chloro-2,4-dinitrobenzene; GS-DNB, S-(2,4-dinitrophenyl)glutathione; BHA, 2(3)-t-butyl-4-hydroxyanisole; ESI-MS, electrospray ionization MS; UTR, untranslated region; TFA, trifluoroacetic acid; RMSD, root-mean-square deviation; G-site, GSH-binding domain.

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